AIDE the Welding Process – Using Information to “AIDE” Weld Process and Quality Control
By Vincent Romano

The goal of every organization is the continual improvement of its manufacturing processes. There is no exception for the arc welding industry. All would agree that information is at the heart of continuous improvement. Information is required to direct the very action necessary to improve processes or resolve problems. Without information, organizations employ random acts with unknown benefits. This wastes valuable time and resources.

Information in the welding industry includes a myriad of data; material data, consumable data, fixture tolerance, part tolerance, weld process information, and much more. Weld process information is a substantial and critical component to improving welding applications. A valuable AIDE would provide the necessary tools to analyze and optimize the weld process.

Intentional collection, storage, and analysis of weld process data has largely been avoided. Welding, for too long, has been solely considered an art at the expense of good engineering practices. The art of welding many times is at the center of an organizations setup, maintenance, and launch of welding applications. As a result, organizations tend to lack documentation, setup methods, and historical information. Procedures derived from information produce common launch practices, universal “best practice” weld procedures, expected productivity and utilization metrics, and historical analysis of preventive maintenance practices to name a few. In a report released by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Industrial Technologies titled Welding Technology Road Map, the report stated “The transition of welding over the coming decade to a rigorous science based on physical data will contribute greatly to the industry’s success in achieving its vision.” Information is and will be increasingly more the cornerstone of improving and advancing weld practices.

A common opinion, which becomes a barrier, is information driven practices are for fortune 500 companies. That is sorely untrue. Large companies are highly dependent on medium and small suppliers to provide a myriad of components. It is obvious the overall assembly is only as good as the weakest link. Best practices must be employed throughout the chain. The benefits are huge; multiplied efficiencies, information sharing, common practices throughout the supply chain. Consider a mobile work force that can transition from industry to industry utilizing universal practices and tools similar to an electrical engineer employing data acquisition techniques to develop PC electronics and automotive electronics. The electrical engineer uses the same oscilloscope in each capacity. The electrical engineer requires the same information. This should be the same in welding. The welding professional will utilize a universal tool to capture the same information whether the application is a car frame or heavy industry tractor. Information will drive setup, maintenance and production activities.

A read of the industry suggests a new openness to embrace information and its effective utilization. In order to marshall in such an opportunity, a welding AIDE is proposed; a process independent method defining the steps for continuous improvement. AIDE is a simple acronym and easy to remember. It can be the building block to a successful practice to continually improve arc weld operations.

Step 1: Audit – gather real-time weld process information and store creating a historical database

  • Goal: Collect footprint of welding operations
  • Metrics: Machine utilization, productivity, Weld Signature data acquisition

Step 2: Identify – analyze welding information creating knowledge base

  • Goal: Document weld process and measure process stability and repeatability
  • Metrics: weld process set point, repeatability of a given weld, number of welds per part, reasons for downtime.

Step 3: Detect – establish control limits and alert on loss of process control

  • Goal: Bound weld process and alert when violated
  • Metrics: detect missing welds, detect incomplete welds, detect process anomalies

Step 4: Engineer – use weld information coupled with welding knowledge to improve

  • Goal: Exploit weld process data to increase quality and velocity
  • Metrics: tighter process operating range, reduced downtime, reduced process faults

AIDE is an iterative methodology which is continually implemented. Continuous improvement is by definition “continuous”. As such, the method requires a tool to automate the acquisition, analysis, and collection of weld process information. The AIDE methodology is only as good as a tool that makes it possible. What is interesting is the implementation and study of the AIDE methodology largely defines the necessary features of the tool. The tool must quickly and effectively source the information necessary to perform each AIDE step. The goal is continuous improvement and the tool is an enabler to that end.

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